Giant Wall of Watery Doom
"They say the wave was 400 meters high when it hit the cities! Three billion dead, Gendo!"Water, in large amounts and at anything above a modest velocity, is very dangerous stuff. Storm surges and flash floods claim hundreds of lives and cause millions of dollars in damage every year, while major disasters such as dam collapses and tsunamis can cause widespread destruction. When someone steps out of their house and sees a 200-foot-high wall of the stuff stretching away to the horizon and moving at a deceptively patient pace toward them it usually results in an intense Oh Crap! moment. Inversion of Soft Water (or an aversion, as even being buried by an avalanche of fluffy pillows would likely be quite lethal if there were a few million tons of them moving at 70 miles an hour). Can occur when a character who makes a splash really pushes himself to the limit. Perspective and point of view can play with this trope. If you are out on the open ocean, a wave only needs to be big enough to capsize your vessel to fully qualify. If you can haul your boat on a trailer behind the family automobile, a 10 foot / 3 meter wave can be a major problem. If you are on a cruise ship or an aircraft carrier, a wave big enough to qualify for this trope could wipe out entire small coastal villages once it hits land.
— Kozo Fuyutsuki, Neon Genesis Evangelion
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- One commercial for Jameson Irish Whiskey had the namesake founder of the distillery smash open a dam and use the ensuing flood, led by a massive wall of water, to extinguish a fire that was consuming a town and threatening the distillery.
Anime & Manga
- In One Piece, the annual giant wave hits the city of Water 7. Later in the series, Whitebeard uses his quake-quake fruit power to create an instant tsunami.
- Scrapped Princess: When the High Council elected to use the Ginnungagap spell, they plunked it right in the center of the ocean, directly atop the SKID. The sheer immensity of its Area of Effect and the shockwave generated by it, resulted in a mega-tsunami that devastated the vast majority of the continental coast!
- In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, in the mission to rescue Allelujah, Ptolemaios II crashed into the sea creating a wall of water that caused quite substantial damage to the A-Laws base.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion when Adam/Antarctica blew up during Second Impact, a "ripple" almost a quarter-mile (four-hundred meters) tall in places spreads outward, wiping out every coastal city in the southern hemisphere, and continues to wreak havoc in the northern. Pity we didn't get to see it.
- The mermaids in Hekikai No AION use tsunamis to hunt down humans for their psyche.
- The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: In The Dreamtime Duck of Never-Never, Scrooge runs away from a massive wave in the Australian desert.
- Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk once caused one of these when throwing down in the middle of the ocean.
- Generally whenever incredibly super strong characters such as the Hulk fight someone in a large body of water, this is the result.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- The Poseidon Adventure, and its remake Poseidon.
- The Perfect Storm
- O Brother, Where Art Thou??, with the sheriff's eventual demise.
- For one of the stunts in Jackass, Johnny Knoxville (with diving mask, snorkel, and flippers) stands in front of a massive water tank perched in front of a ramp. The camera looks up at him from below, and over the course of three seconds he's standing there, water rushes over the camera, and when it clears he's completely vanished.
- The Abyss: At the climax the undersea creatures create gigantic walls of water near major coastal cities as a warning to humans to stop warfare.
- The Guns of Navarone: The heroes crash their ship into the coast of Navarone in a storm. As they're trying to unload it, they see a huge wall of water approaching. They desperately try to get away before it hits.
- In Deep Impact, this provides an Obi-Wan Moment for several main characters.
- The Day After Tomorrow has a 40 foot tall surge swamp Manhattan.
- 2012, a wave manages to travel all the way across India and still retain enough height to flood out the Himalayas, i.e. an 8 kilometer high wave.
- Wrath Of The Ocean
- In The Mummy Returns, Imhotep controls the water in a canyon river, turning it into a giant water wall with his face on it, to chase down the protagonists in their dirigible.
- The Last Airbender features one of these.
- The Last Wave
- In the Hallmark version of Jason and the Argonauts the god Poseidon has a little fun with the crew by pretending to be an island and then standing up to create a tidal wave which destroys most of the ship. The only reason they survive is probably because Zeus blows them onto the Isle of Lemnos where they get repairs.
- Point Break has Swayze playing a surfer robs banks to fund his search for the largest wave ever. It turns out to be large no other surfer goes near it. He does, as a way of committing suicide rather than be jailed for the robberies.
- The page-image is from the 2009 South Korean disaster flick titled Tidal Wave in English.
- Godzilla displaces so much water in Godzilla (2014) that he kills hundreds of people in massive tsunamis just from rising out of the ocean.
- Miller's planet in Interstellar is located close to a black hole. Given that the planet is not perfectly spherical, and is 'tidally locked' to the black hole, this causes huge tidal waves to circle the planet as they lag behind the planet's rotation.
- They had this during a typhoon in Silent Ship, Silent Sea.
- At the beginning of Nation, a tsunami caused by a nearby volcanic explosion wipes out most of the island.
- Used in an attempt to Murder the Hypotenuse in A Wizard Of Mars, but Nita stops it in mid-air and threatens to send it back through a portal at the girl who just tried to kill her. And the city she's in.
- A tsunami finishes off Númenor in The Silmarillion, based on a Real Life dream of Tolkien's. Later seen in a dream in The Lord of the Rings.
- A more positive example from The Lord of the Rings comes when Elrond and Gandalf summon a giant wall of water along the river to sweep away the Nazgul who are attacking Frodo.
- Gali, Toa of Water, pulled this off in a BIONICLE web serial. She usually just goes for bursts of water, but this time she decided the enemy was strong enough to warrant the of use very single drop of elemental energy she could muster. The wave was described as being "a thousand feet high" and destroyed every building in the land of Karzahni.
- In Sharon Creech's The Wanderer, the crew encounters a wave like this during a horrific storm. It's important later because Sophie remembers the wave as having been black, when according to everyone else, it was white. Sophie is flashing back to another such storm that she survived, but which killed her biological parents, though Sophie has no conscious memory of this.
- In the book Lucifer's Hammer a giant tidal wave created by the impact of the Hammer wipes out Los Angeles, and presumably other west coast cities that the reader doesn't see.
- In Frank Schätzing's The Swarm (not to be confused with the film or trope of the same name), the Yrr cause one of these by triggering a huge underwater landslide in the North Sea and pretty much wrecking the whole of coastal northern Europe.
- Footfall shows the results of a giant asteroid intentionally dropping into the Indian Ocean, with pretty much all of the surrounding coasts completely scoured by the resultant wave.
- In the Dramatic Audio version of Soul Harvest from the Left Behind book series, one of the Christians on board a cruise liner in the middle of the ocean barely has time to lead the people in a prayer of salvation before a giant wave of water caused from the impact of a giant mountain crashing into the seas (one of God's Trumpet Judgments) reaches the ship.
- The Big Wave is about the destruction of a seaside Japanese village by a tsunami.
- In Catherine Marshall's novel Julie, half of the heroine's hometown is destroyed by a wall of water resulting from a dam failure.
- In Mother of Storms by John Barnes, tens of millions are killed by storm surges.
- Happens in Ultraman Leo complete with people getting drowned and covered in debris as the wave levels buildings.
- The end of the Stargate Atlantis episode "The Eye" has one hit the floating city.
- Deadliest Catch: Once per season per boat in red king crab season, once per episode per boat in opilio season.
- Bering Sea Gold: To a sub-25 foot pontoon boat suction dredge, 2 foot waves can be a problem. 5 foot waves can swamp you and a 10 foot wave can capsize or even sink your dredge. To the 100-plus foot bucket dredges, it takes slightly rougher seas to convince the captain to pull the plug and make the 2 mile run back to port.
- Happens fairly often on Whale Wars; one 30 foot rogue wave in particular struck the left side of the Brigitte Bardot and nearly snapped the trimaran's port-side pontoon clean off!
- One of the first season episodes of Sliders ended with the group reaching a San Francisco which is just about to get hit by a wave.
- Hawaii Five-0 New Series Season 1 Episode Kai e'e. The Tsunami warning system is taken over and a false warning sent out. This is going to be used by the bad guys to facilitate their robbing the police headquarters.
- One episode of CSI: Miami had Florida hit by a tsunami while some bank robbers took advantage of the confusion to swipe a fortune in gold bullion.
- This is Weather Wizard's chosen method to destroy Central City in The Flash (2014). And it really was unstoppable; the only reason the city wasn't destroyed it's that the Flash accidentally broke the time barrier and returned to the previous night when trying to create a wind shield against the tsunami by running faster than ever.
- During the Matthew Good song Last Parade, specifically the lyrics
Like we're taking pictures of a tidal waveOn the shore, grinnin', a hundred feet away
- In "Suddenly There Is a Tidal Wave", the final song on The Wayward Bus LP by The Magnetic Fields, the chorus goes:
The boys talk like they own the world
The women keep their stupid diaries
But suddenly there's a tidal wave
And everything is sucked out to sea
- Later in the song the chorus is repeated, twice, back-to-back. Three seconds later the music abruptly stops. (No similarity to a Three Second Silence.) Then—if you happen to be listening to the two-fer CD The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees—enjoy four-and-a-half minutes of silence, followed by the songs on the Distant Plastic Trees LP. Perhaps (analogous with "hidden tracks"), this qualifies as a HiddenAlbum?
- Was The Wayward Bus ever released, standalone, in any format? If not—and, let's say you're listening to The Wayward Bus—then you can be certain Distant Plastic Trees will follow.
- The band Great Big Sea took their name from an old Newfoundland folk song about the 1929 tsunami described below.
- Isn't there a Wall of Water card in Magic: The Gathering?
- Yep, and also a Tsunami card.
- There's also a spell by the same name in Spell Compendium, as well as the Tsunami spell.
- Early Dungeons & Dragons:
- Oriental Adventures had the shukenja and wu jen "Tsunami" spells, which caused a tidal wave at least 180 feet high.
- The Forgotten Realms had the Tidal Wave spell, which was 75 feet high.
- An example of a good Wall of Watery Doom comes from Legend of the Five Rings: during an invasion of Rokugan from the Shadowlands in the eighth century, a Crab Clan shugenja named Kuni Osaku summoned a giant wall of water sufficient to stop the Shadowlands army in its path. The effort of the spell eventually killed her, but before it did, the rest of the Crab Clan was able to build an actual wall to ward off the invasion.
- Gali summons one of these and destroys the realm of Kharzani in BIONICLE.
- Happens in Chrono Trigger, as a result of a floating chain of islands crashing into the sea. Results are about as catastrophic as you'd think.
- Strago's "Clean Sweep" lore in Final Fantasy VI takes this form.
- As does the summon Bismark in the same game, and possibly some forms of Leviathan.
- Also the "El Nino" result of Mog's Water Rondo dance, which is the strongest water-based attack in the game.
- As does the summon Bismark in the same game, and possibly some forms of Leviathan.
- Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions: Deadpool uses bombs to trigger three of those in a row in Ultimate Spidey's second level. You have to web-sling towards them across a floating obstacle course in order to reach high ground.
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia: One of the bosses will produce some moai heads, then follow it up with a massive tidal wave. Make sure you don't destroy them.
- In Pokémon, the moves Surf and Muddy Water both use this trope.
- Happens twice in the World of Warcraft Cataclysm cinematic, at Booty Bay and Thousand Needles.
- One stage in Donkey Kong Country Returns has you taking shelter from these at regular intervals. Being exposed will kill you.
- Tsunamis are one of the earlier and constant threats in From Dust.
- This is one of a few reasons not to hurt the Chao - Chaos will get angry and cause one of these. The ancient echidnas learned that the hard way.
- This is how the aptly named Tidal Wave spell looks in the 2D games of the Tales Series.
- In the first level of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, giant tidal waves repeatedly rear up in the background while you're jumping across a series of platforms. Although the waves don't actually affect Arthur directly, they will wash away large parts of the terrain, killing you instantly if you're not standing on a "safe" part.
- In Final Fantasy XII, one of Balthier's Quickenings is a tsunami.
- At one point in Out of This World, Lester has to run from a watery Advancing Wall of Doom.
- Warcraft III: The Crushing Wave spell sends a huge wall of water into enemies, though the animation for it is entirely 2D.
- Subverted in The Demented Cartoon Movie!.
- In the Whateley Universe, Riptide is a side character. But when Chaka gets hurt in "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl" and Riptide gets really upset, and there's a lake handy, a badguy in a getaway van finds out there's nowhere to run.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, waterbenders can do small scale versions of this. The Avatar, being much more powerful, can conjure tsunamis. Aang once nailed Sokka with one by accident.
- Zim once flattened an entire city... with a water balloon containing all of the water on Earth that created a 200-story high wall of water.
- Phineas and Ferb subverts and then proceeds to lampshade this in the episode "The Belly of the Beast" the titular characters drop a giant mechanical shark into Danville Harbor, causing what appears to be a giant wave, which then miraculously manages to avoid everyone on the crowded boardwalk except Candace, who then proclaims "Ok, now how did that only hit me?"
- This scene is then repeated.
- and At the end of the episode, it's played straight.
- Real-life tsunamis are not as visually spectacular as the "wall of water" that many trope examples invoke: they're more like a very rapidly rising tide. However, the speed and force of the water is such that you do not want to be in it.
- Indeed, the majority of real-life tsunamis could be seen as an aversion of the trope. They most often look very tame when they are approaching the shore, not much different from a normal wave. They are extremely deceptive, though; rather than stopping at the shore like other waves, they just keep on going and going inland without stopping...
- The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami is possibly one of the largest, most widely youtubed disasters in history.
- In Alaska, a piece of a mountain fell into Lituya Bay, and it is estimated that the resulting splash was around 100-300 feet high. The wave had enough speed and energy to ride up the opposite slope to a height of around 1700 feet.
- The only tsunami known to kill people in Canada occurred in 1929, off the coast of Newfoundland. An earthquake in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge created a wave of water that swept houses completely off the land. The locals called it the "great big sea".
- The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was caused by an earthquake that uplifted a 100 mile long section of sea floor, releasing a titanic amount of energy.
- The 1700 Cascadia earthquake occurred off the coast of what's now Washington and British Columbia, devastating that coastline with waves up to 30 meters. It existed in the historical record only in Japan, which had an orphan tsunami with no apparent cause at the same time. It wasn't until 300 years later that physical proof was found of origin in the Pacific Northwest.
- Sometime in February 1933, the US Navy oil tanker USS Ramapo was steaming through a nasty Pacific gale when she encountered a massive wave. Fortunately, she escaped with minor damage. Geometric calculations, however, showed the wave to have been 112 feet tall. To this day, it remains the tallest wind-driven wave ever recorded.
- Estimations by oceanographers suggest that the tallest height possible for a wind-driven wave is 198 feet. Of course, it would take a freakishly rare combination of events and geography to produce such a monster; but still, a wave of that size could severely damage or even sink any ship unfortunate enough to encounter it.
- One analysis of the Thera eruption in the 17th Century B.C.E. states that in Turkey, "two peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea confined the wave ... building it higher and higher and ultimately funneling it thirty miles inland. To penetrate so far, it had to be eight hundred feet tall when it hit the shore." Thera is almost a hundred miles from the peninsulas mentioned, and there are other islands in the way which would've robbed the wave of some of its force ... but it was still 800 feet tall.
- During the end of the last ice age, an immense ice dam in what is now Washington state collapsed under the weight of the water behind it, causing a series of devastating floods across the eastern part of the state — the most powerful of these generated the equivalent of 4500 megatons of TNT.
- The volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands could cause one; an eruption could potentially send part of the island sliding into the Atlantic, causing a MEGAtsunami that could obliterate the east coast of the United States from Florida to Maine.
- Rogue waves. They can be up to 35 m high (yup, that's 115 feet) and they are preceded with a trough so deep and steep as described as "like a hole in the ocean". Their existence has been doubted, but they do exist. A rogue wave is steep and resembles a vertical wall of water, and can sink even an ocean-going ship, nevermind yachts and fishing vessels.
- For a long time The Biblical Flood has been considered legend or myth and without evidence, but there are indications it was indeed based on an actual event.
- The leading hypothesis that the Flood was inspired by the flooding of the Black Sea at some point around 5600 BCE, which presumably would have looked a lot like this to the people present.
- The Burckle Crater in the Indian Ocean, if indeed it turns out to be a crater, is hypothesized to have caused waves up to four kilometers tall when the object that created it hit, which would have hit most of the cradles of humanity at the time.
- Tsunamis caused by underwater/into-water landslides are the largest and most powerful type after impact-generated tsunamis. Both are termed "Megatsunamis", and there have been several in recorded times, the most recent being in 1980 with the eruption of Mount St. Helens and its avalanche into Spirit Lake. Several areas are likely to produce a major landslide and megatsunami in the future, the most alarming being at the Hawaiian Islands, where a large chunk of the Big Island is slowly cracking away from the rest of the island. For another potential example, see above.
- The biggest tsunamis, speaking of which, are actually caused by meteorites crashing into the ocean.
- For example, the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was thought to have created megatsunamis several kilometres high that were large enough to completely submerge islands as large as Madagascar.
- Sometimes, such tsunamis can take place in the least expected of places. In Vajont, Italy - in the mountains half a kilometer above sea level and nearly 100 kilometers from the coast - an entire mountainside (270 million cubic meters) collapsed into a reservoir half the size (shielded from a valley by a 200 meter dam). The dam itself withstood the pressure just fine, but the displaced water flushed over in a 250 meter-high wall of water and rolled through the valley beneath in a gigantic wave, destroying several villages and killing 2000 locals. It was the biggest man-made tsunami of all times.
- Less extreme than the others here, but in 1952, the English village of Lynmouth was devastated by a flash flood that swept away houses, bridges and a lifeboat station as well as causing the collapse of a lighthouse. The wall of water was "only" about fifty feet high and carrying tree trunks and boulders.